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Right Place, Wrong Time by Tim


Every other month I went for my regular trim at the local barbershop. Mine was not the usual haircut, much longer than was fashionable but what I liked. The 'Precision Barbershop' had been there forever with the same three barbers who all survived the long style cuts of the 70's so they could trim my long mane as well as anyone for less money and no appointment. That was important to me since I was now a college freshman on a limited budget with even more limits to my time.

Everytime I thought about changing my hair (which actually wasn't too often) something in my life stopped me. Right now it was my girlfriend, Karen, who loved running her fingers through my hair which reached just over my collar, bangs stabbing into my eyes, and ears completely covered. She wanted it even longer but the bangs were now driving me nuts. I promised her I'd only get a bit of a trim, basically just getting the bangs a bit neater and the sides toned down a bit. I said I'd leave the back as is so it would grow longer for her. The sight of her smile and the feel of her loving hug as I left made me actually look forward to even longer hair.

I give you all this pretense so you can fully appreciate the magnitude of what actually happened.

Usually the shop had a short waiting line, but since all three barbers worked so quickly, and I really didn't care who cut my hair, the delay was usually at most 10 minutes. But today the shop was absolutely packed, and it was also abnormally noisy. The noise was laughter as all three chairs were occupied with guys shaving their head bald, and the waiting line was constantly harassing them though in good fun.

Soon I recognized the majority of the waiting customers. This was the Freedom High varsity basketball team, the squad I was part of last year. I immediately exchanged my greetings and they let me in on what was happening. As a motivation for the upcoming playoffs the entire team agreed to shave their heads. Soon I was laughing too as I recognized the now nearly bald first victims as Tony and Corey, the starting backcourt. I sat back and joined in with the fun as over the next 30 minutes I watched the entire team become baldies. I was laughing so hard tears were coming out. Seeing how ridiculous they all looked made me happy that our team last year hadn't taken such extreme measures. But if this was designed to bring the team closer, the cheery exchanges now before me certainly seemed to be working. None of the bald victims had left yet, as the entire team watched each teammate undergo the procedure. Thick mounds of coated the floor until Paul finally grabbed a broom and swept a good portion up so no one would trip and fall. I had never seen so much freshly cut hair.

Finally it was my turn as the team was done and Jim had a vacant chair. Jim hadn't cut my hair in over a year but at the time I thought nothing of it. After all it was still the same haircut he had done countless times. I sat down on the chair and watched in the mirror as he secured the robe around my neck. He wore a big smile, obviously having enjoyed the last half hour.

"Just the usual today Jim, but leave the back alone. I think I'm going to let that grow a bit longer."

"Yeah, right."

If I had been paying attention I might have taken note at the unusual response, but instead I just started watching the team rub the head of the freshman power forward just off the chair, oblivious to the actions of my barber, who was now back cleaning and oiling his clippers. They were soon switched on and he moved in behind me, ready to begin.

I was still smiling watching my former team start heading out the door when I sensed the clippers brought in front of my face. My eyes quickly darted to the mirror just as they touched down dead center of my front hairline, and before I could even utter a sound were drawn straight back mowing a nearly bald path clear back to my crown. I couldn't believe what I just saw, and I bolted up out of the chair. My hand shot up touching the short stubble, confirming what my eyes had seen.

"What the hell are you doing?" I yelled at Jim.

He looked totally shocked also. "B-b-b-but, you are part of the basketball team, right?!"

"NO! I used to be, but I graduated last year!"

"You mean you're not here with them?!"

"No!" My hand continued to touch the short stubble, totally confused by the foreign feel.

Jim's eyes were wide in shock. "Oh my God, I'm sorry!"

By now the team, deathly quiet, was all staring at the commotion. When they recognized what actually happened, they all busted out in laughter.

"All right Mark! Way to show your team spirit!"

I didn't know what to say, I just stood standing looking at the horrible reflection staring back at me in the mirror. I was beginning to shake as I recognized the ugly truth. There was no way to cover up what had been done. My only choice was to let him finish the job.

The news of my ordeal quickly spread among the team, and they headed back into the shop to watch. I was still standing, and looked back at Jim.

"It looks like I have no choice now. I guess you just need to finish buzzing me, just no shorter than you have to." I couldn't believe the words I was saying. I had no intention of being shorn. As I sat back down in the chair Jim was still apologizing. He seemed to be even more distressed than I, and that's saying a lot.

The guys from the team started in now. "What are you waiting for Mark? Tell him to shave it all off." They all got involved until the enthusiasm was nearly overwhelming. Jim looked at me.

"So what'll it be?"

"Oh, what the hell! Go ahead and shave it all off."

A cheer went up from all the team. I sat frozen, trembling inside, and watched my reflection in the mirror preparing for a hideous metamorphosis. I already looked horrible, and imagined it would get nothing but worse.

"OK, if that's what you want," replied Jim, and the clippers came to life once again.

I felt like a draftee in boot camp as I watched all my hair quickly clipped from my head. Path after path was made, front to back, steadily working down on each side until my ears were fully exposed. Then my head was tilted down so I could see the once plentiful masses of hair on my head lying on the robe in front of me. I was almost numb as I felt the clippers running up the back clear up to the top. It was strange to feel nothing against my neck, and the breeze from the open door against my ears and scalp. My head felt pounds lighter. When I finally looked forward again I almost laughed at the sight of only short stubble remaining. My head looked much smaller now too, which actually made my chest look bigger and stronger. There was an unexpected benefit.

"Do you want me to use the razor?"

The team started chanting "Baldy, Baldy."

"Sure! Why not?!"

This brought another big cheer and my palms starting sweating again. In moments I felt the warm shaving lather being spread all over my head. That actually felt kind of good, but I was terrified at the thought of being bald. How would I ever explain all this to Karen?

Jim slowly but expertly started removing the foam. I held as still as I could, hoping not to get a nick. I never did. To see my smooth dome gradually unveiled, without even a hint of hair, was almost laughable. When he toweled off the finished product and removed my robe, I just sat there in complete disbelief that this actually had happened. I stood and started reaching for my wallet.

"No charge. I couldn't accept anything for this."

I walked over to the team and was instantly greeted by a swarm of hands rubbing my head. It felt so odd. Finally they all left and I walked to my car and stared at my reflection in the rear-view mirror. I hated what I looked like, but for some reason enjoyed the feel. Touching my head was soft and smooth, like touching Karen's freshly shaved legs. Karen! I'd have to face up to her.

To say Karen was surprised would be an understatement. First she screamed, then nearly passed out, then cried as she touched it, then started laughing and crying at the same time as I simply told her the whole truth of what happened.

"Why didn't you just leave it as a buzz? How come you had to have him shave all of it off?"

"It was so short it will only take about a week to make up the difference. So I figured I'd make the guys happy."

Neither of us ever got used to the bald look, but looking back on it we both have to laugh. I'm actually kind of glad it all happened. I got to see that Karen loved me for more than my looks, and we wed two years later. I also got to go through the whole experience, which I think every guy should do once in their life sometime. Finally, it forced me to see what I looked like with shorter, more contemporary styles which I've kept to this day.



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